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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Japan is coming here" : reading anticipation for Canada's future(s) in Canadian literary and film representations of the 2011 Japanese tsunami McGuire-Wood, Lauren


On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Japan, the aftermath of which caused a tsunami that devastated several coastal regions, taking the lives of nearly 16,000 Japanese people and displacing hundreds of thousands more. This disaster also affected countries on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, and the marine debris that washed up on the shores of British Columbia following 3/11 has prompted several Canadian artists to portray this event in their work. This thesis explores the ethical implications of representing the tragedy of another country in three works: the novel A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, short film Debris by John Bolton, and feature-length documentary Lost & Found by John Choi and Nicolina Lanni. This project examines how these Canadian narratives respond to and memorialize the 2011 Japanese tsunami. Employing rhetorical, literary, and ecocritical theories, the thesis uses discourse analysis to consider how national narratives of recovery and safety, as well as orientations toward the future, materialize in these works. It notes the differences that arise between literature and film representations, and between fiction and non-fiction. By tracing conceptions of time and nationhood in the three primary works, this project argues that shifting temporalities within memorials complicate the process of mourning for Japan’s loss, and remind those in Canada, especially BC, that we too could be in this position. This thesis concludes that artists depicting the earthquake and tsunami in their work confront the complications inherent in their own positions and their medium of choice, yet, at times, replicate the very issues they are bringing up. Read together, these works show how narrative representations of disasters play a specific role in the reconstruction of relationships to place and identities following an event so tragic. Additionally, they illuminate just how much memorials are intertwined with hopes and fears of a future which has yet to be determined.

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